Plan B: Engineering a Cooler Earth

Research: Land

Green River incising into tablelands, Utah.
Earth Surface Dynamics Laboratory.

Investigating Landscape Change

Around the world, the surface of our landscape evolves in response to tectonic, climate, biological and anthropogenic influences. We use field and laboratory measurements to build and test quantitative models for the processes that cause landscape change. Current topics include the effect of wildfires on landscape sediment yield, erosion of bedrock canyons by rivers and floods, sediment transport in steep mountain streams, climate change as recorded in ancient river-bed surfaces, and connecting river sediment sources to their oceanic deposits. The work applications in environmental science include river restoration for fish habitats, mitigating debris flow and flood hazards, extracting paleo-climate information from landscape topography, and reconstructing water and petroleum reservoirs from sedimentary deposits.

Faculty Involved

Thumb_lamb Michael P. Lamb
Thumb_sessions Alex Sessions

Tools and Facilities


Earth Surface Dynamics Laboratory

The Caltech Earth Surface Dynamics Laboratory is a 4000 sq. ft. high-bay space designed to facilitate physical experiments and models in order to study the processes that shape landscapes through erosion and deposition. The lab includes a state-of-the-art tilting flume to investigate fluvial bedrock erosion, sediment transport in rivers, and initiation of debris flows. The lab also includes a river basin for research into delta formation, river meandering, and alluvial fan evolution and stratigraphy.

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